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OKLAHOMA COUNTY (Free Press) — The Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority (Jail Trust) held their monthly meeting on Monday afternoon. In the absence of Chairman Jim Couch, Senator Ben Brown chaired the meeting.

The Trust heard public comments from a largely unruly group of activists and protestors, before handling the business of the day.

The group heard some details of the first Annual Report on the Jail since the Trust took over.

They also received an update on the Detention Center Action Committee (DCAC), including recommendations from that body with no further action, before receiving the usual monthly report from Jail CEO Greg Wiliams.

Public Comment

Nine members of the public addressed the Trust during the allotted time for public comment at the beginning of the meeting. Each person in turn took the Trust to task for their perceived incompetence and lack of will to make systemic changes.

Speakers pointed out that the members of the Trust are people who hold clout in our community and admonished them to use that political capital to work on things like ending cash bail, and influencing the District Attorney’s office and District judges to change practices in order to reduce the population of the jail.

Brown refused to recognize one activist, Sara Bana because he said he didn’t have her sign-up slip. Bana said that she doesn’t make it her business to go around town lying and ruining her own reputation. Bana then refused to vacate the podium until she would be heard. At that point other activists crowded to the front, shouting at the Trustees, a scene we haven’t seen at Jail Trust meetings in many months.

Brown declared a five-minute recess and left the horseshoe with several other Trustees. During that time, Bana led what she described as a “teach-in,” largely addressing her supporters with information they already knew. The act was caught on camera by several members of the media present for the meeting.

When Brown returned from recess he said that they had chosen to take Bana at her word, and allowed her the typical three minutes for addressing the Trust.

Many speakers at Tuesday’s meeting called for resignations from the Trustees and Jail CEO Greg Williams. 

One speaker went so far as to ask Sheriff Tommie Johnson, III to place Commissioner Kevin Calvey in handcuffs, making reference to suggestions that Calvey embezzled and/or laundered CARES money, allegations that have in no way been proven, nor openly investigated by County or State authorities.

Nobody resigned at Tuesday’s meeting.

Annual Detention Center Report

Jail CEO Greg Williams presented the Detention Center’s first Annual Report since the facility was taken over by the Jail Trust.

The Jail’s budget for the past year was $36.2 million.

According to Williams, the Oklahoma County Detention Center has the highest pay of any detention center in the state of Oklahoma. Employees get a competitive wage, and the Jail incentivizes staying on the job with bonuses after six months of employment. 

The current staffing level is 345, the highest it has been since the Trust took control of the facility.

The average population of the Jail in the last year was 1,776. The facility was originally designed to hold only 1,200 people when full to capacity.

The Jail used over $10 million of CARES funds to update, repair, or replace dysfunctional equipment and plumbing and air systems in the facility.

Jail Trust
Oklahoma County Jail administrator Greg Williams gives a report on the current state of the Jail Sept 20, 2021. (BRETT DICKERSON/Okla City Free Press)

Detention Center Action Committee

Trustee Francie Ekwerekwu, Chair of the Detention Center Action Committee (DCAC), was called on to give an update on the subcommittee’s progress.

Ekwerekwu presented reports with recommendations from each of the three working groups. Those recommendations were categorized as “classification,” “direct supervision,” and “depopulation.”

Free Press recently reported on those recommendations resulting from months of focus group work.

To learn more: Jail Trust committee takes on supervision, population, classification issues

At Monday’s meeting, the Trust ultimately voted to receive the recommendation reports. No effort was made to determine a timeline of implementation, nor even if the recommendations would be implemented at all.

Jail Operations

Williams presented his monthly report on Jail Operations to the Trust. As usual, he observed that staffing the facility is the greatest concern.

Population count as of midday Monday was 1,672, with 211 people awaiting transfer to Department of Corrections custody.

After the meeting, Williams told Free Press that they are typically sending 20 men and 20 women to DOC per week. He reported that women who have been sentenced get transferred quickly, but that it takes longer to find quarters for men who have been sentenced.

In the last 30 days, the Jail has tested 710 detainees for COVID and found only 20 positive cases. However, many staff at the Jail have contracted COVID, several of whom are out of work quarantining and recuperating from the deadly illness.

Oklahoma County currently has 14 juveniles staying at Pawnee County Jail, and there is an outstanding warrant on one additional juvenile, which will bring the total to 15, the maximum number of juveniles that can be kept in that jail according to the contract.

The Jail Trust will meet again on October 18 at 1:00 p.m.

Last Updated September 20, 2021, 6:20 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor